Initial Team USA Training Impressions

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There’s lots of training going down in an official capacity at the 2015 world championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The Gymternet will have Kensley Behel on site covering the meet beginning at qualifications, so look for our live updates beginning then! For now, enjoy our impressions based on all videos and updates we’ve seen from inside the arena.

The biggest news out of the U.S. is about the alternate. MyKayla Skinner went up last on all four events in training, which likely means she will serve as the alternate this year. Typically, Martha Karolyi will put the alternate up last on all events in training, as she did last year, so unless something changes, this is a probable scenario.

It’s actually a bummer if this is the case, because she got her Amanar back for the first time in years and it actually looks really good. Like, shockingly good, considering how poorly she was doing it back at podium training for nationals. Her form is pretty solid, and she’s definitely getting enough height…and her Cheng was also hit well, with the usual one-handed block, but a solid landing. If she’s doing these two vaults to the best of her ability, she could easily be in the mix for a vault medal, which is why it’s so surprising to see her in the alternate position. But at the same time, there are potential event medalists sitting at home, as is the case when your team has this much depth. Team decisions are made for the team as a whole, not based on individual medals, and if she’s found to be unable to contribute anywhere else in a team final, that could be her downfall.

Otherwise, on bars, her full routine included solid work though with her typical form issues, especially with split legs on pirouettes and transitions. She caught her releases well, however, and considering it’s her weakest event, it’s really not that bad. On beam, she struggled with her tuck full landing, her leaps were a bit weak, and she had a few other bobbles, which is a bit funny, as I think I actually prefer her bars to her beam based on this training.

The U.S. gymnasts didn’t do full floor routines, just a bit of tumbling here and there, and Skinner has apparently added a back tuck out of her full-in which is an awesome upgrade…I wonder how it looks in a full routine?

Let’s talk about Simone Biles next. Her Amanar is literal perfection. Big surprise there, right? Her Lopez is also super strong, and her bars looked great…now that she’s solid there, you can really see that she’s paying incredibly close attention to the little things, like pointed feet and legs together on absolutely every skill. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see a “whoops, I made the bars final” moment from her this year. On beam, she struggled on her wolf 2.5 and then slightly on the barani, but was otherwise solid and confident in all of her skills and connections…especially her front aerial to wolf jump, which was effortless. Again, we didn’t see a full floor routine, but her tumbling looked like what you’d expect from her, especially on her eponymous skill.

Aly Raisman has cleaned up her Amanar a ton since August. Her landing is much better, and while she still has her signature one bent knee, it’s overall a much safer vault for her and up until the point where she bends her knee, it looks pretty good in the air. She hit her full set on bars, including a PERFECT first handstand before going on to show shockingly excellent form on the majority of her skills. I love her toe full to Maloney to Tkatchev…and honestly, it’s great to live in a world where you no longer have any question about whether Raisman can get through a set on this event. So consistent.

Her beam was mostly solid from start to finish. It seems as though she has been working crazy hard on her connections, and her punch front pike to wolf jump was especially quick. She did have a bit of a pause between the bhs layout and split jump, but it was very brief and I think she’d still get the CV if she hit like that in competition. The weakest point was the punch front tuck to a split jump, which was a little slow and also lacking in form, but she finished with a great Patterson. On floor she showed a superb piked double arabian in addition to a stellar 1.5 to double arabian to layout, which she stuck.

Moving to Gabby Douglas, we got to see her Amanar back in action for the first time in her comeback! Douglas’ form looks strong in the air and she gets an incredible block, though her landings looked a bit low (and she sat it on one attempt). Her bars were very tidy, featuring a big piked Tkatchev to pak, solid inbar and Endo work, and a superb double layout.

I thought the extension Douglas showed in her beam was absolutely gorgeous, and just adds a little something extra. Her punch front pike to sissone is exquisite as is her switch to switch half, though she did have some bent knees on her bhs loso and a stumble on her standing full.

Maggie Nichols has pretty rough form on her Amanar, and she tends to drive the twist into the mat on the landing, but with her I think adrenaline is key with this vault. She had similar landings in practice at nationals but then hit really well in competition so I trust that she’ll be fine.

She showed impressive work on bars, with a toe full to Maloney to pak (split legs) to van Leeuwen done well before her toe on to toe half to Jaeger and full-twisting double layout dismount (a bit piked with a step on the landing). On beam, her wolf turn was a little shaky at the end, but overall it was probably the strongest of the day. She was very clean, had great lines and extension, and didn’t show a single wobble. The barani is gone, as is the full-in dismount, but her form looks so good on what she’s doing, I definitely understand why this would be.

Madison Kocian‘s bars set looks about as lovely and clean as it did all season. She added an inbar full – an E skill – at the start of her routine, which should boost her to a 6.6, an important tenth in a very deep field if she wants a medal here in finals. This new skill comes before her Komova II to pak to Chow half, inbar half to Jaeger, and stalder to stalder full to full-in, all of which look fantastic.

She is only doing an FTY on vault, most likely because she won’t even go up here in qualifications but she just needs something as a backup just in case…and on beam, she opened with a lovely switch ring before hitting a front aerial to sissone to straddle jump, a solid bhs loso, sheep jump, side aerial, switch to back tuck, and a double pike with a step…not the greatest, but it looks like she took out her troublesome standing arabian and is going for consistency over difficulty.

Naturally, I have to save the best for last (no bias here!), and Brenna Dowell looked absolutely incredible on bars, hitting her Tweddle to Ezhova, Church to pak, and full-twisting double layout with absolutely zero problems. With a 6.7 start value, she could easily make it to event finals and could potentially be a podium threat with a hit routine.

Dowell stuck with a big and clean DTY on vault instead of her rumored Amanar, and on beam she hit everything with relative ease, showing minor form issues and a few slight bobbles, but she definitely looks more confident here than she did in the summer…and I can’t get enough of her full-twisting back handspring. She didn’t do a full floor routine, but showed off her impressive tumbling, including a huge double front pike to wolf jump. She can get the double front pike named for her if she does end up competing on this event in the competition, which is very likely if Skinner is the alternate.

Overall, my impression is that beam is somewhat shockingly the weakest event for this team right now. Maybe they have some nerves about ending there in qualifications, or maybe it was just first-day jitters, but either way there is certainly a lot that can stand to be cleaned up on this event in the coming days. Once they do clean up, however, it becomes a rock star rotation with Douglas, Raisman, and Biles. Otherwise, they hands-down have the best vault lineup in the world, they are impossibly strong on bars, and with the reigning world and Olympic champions anchoring the floor lineup with monstrous routines, I don’t think they’ll have a problem there either.

Stay tuned as we compile news about how everyone else is faring in training!

Article by Lauren Hopkins

20 thoughts on “Initial Team USA Training Impressions

  1. Thx a lot, very nice and informative. Why is it just “someone” who’ll be in Glasgow for The Gymternet and this “someone” doesn’t get credit? Enlighten us – WHO WILL BE THERE *drumroolllll* …

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  2. I really don’t quite understand why marta would make skinner the alt? and giving up a good chance at a vt medal? scared that somehow mykayla could beat simone in vt EF podium standing? I mean why then even bother to bring mykayla? should’ve just leave her home and bring bailie which would make a much better alternate who is as good as mykayla in fx and is better on beam and bars…

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    • Same question. When I saw your Tweet this morning re: Dowell not the alternate, I thought for sure it was Kocian. Struggling to understand the reasoning here…should be interesting as we see more this week.

      That said, I’m a Dowell fan, fairly warm to Kocian, and not warm at all to Skinner, so this is good news in my book – just seemingly irrational from a “maximize EF hardware” standpoint (which I thought was the whole point of leaving Key at home).

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    • It seems like there is actual competition this year for the vault final… maybe keeping MyKayla out is to help guarantee a medal for Simone? Is that crazy? But for real, we don’t really need MyKayla’s vault for TF (even though hers looked cleaner today than others), and I don’t think we really need her score on FX for TF either. Aly and Simone can score so high, and Brenna could be a good FX lead off…

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      • I guess Skinner is the person you can put up on any event… like her bars and beam aren’t GREAT but you can rely on her to bring the score and she’s pretty steady in competition.

        Not sure anyone can rely on vt final or podium this year!

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  3. Yeah I never really considered Skinner as alternate, but I guess stranger things have happened…

    But YAY Brenna!!! I hope she continues to hit!

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  5. Honestly if Skinner ‘s the alternate the floor lineup weakens, Gabby has execution issues with her spins, Madison and Brenna don’t have the difficulty which would make me want to put them in and Maggie is a question mark. I guess all will be revealed tomorrow.

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  6. If you look at the lineup they had Dowell in the 6th position which means Aly in the AA and Dowell off of bars. So ridiculous to sacrifice Dowell on bars for Aly in aa if they stick to todays lineups. Outrage.

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  7. so i’m not a big skinner fan, but if she is the alternate my big question is…

    who sits out bars during quals?
    simone will do it, bc she has to qual for AA finals.
    brenna and madison have UB final potential
    gabby has UB final and AA final potential
    so between maggie and aly, who does marta sit, and therefore *not* want in contention for AA?

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  8. Has there been like.. any signs that Skinner is feeling any pain in her ankles… or maybe having some mental conflicts? It’s the only logistical reason I can consider setting her aside a bit in favor of some others. Like, I personally prefer Brenna over Skinner any day, but team strategy wise I could only imagine making that choice of Mykayla was having some personal issues. I’m sure she’s seen the amt of criticism for her this past year.. I could see her just feeling apprehensive to actually take the stage even if she appears fine in practice. Y’know, one of the behind-the-scenes struggles we as fans aren’t privy to, but her coaches would know her heads not in the game…and that its not wise to push it.

    Either that or some nagging injury pains bugging her more than others. Since the pounding events are her things, a more mild soreness could be enough to choose to rest her. ..esp if they’d rather see her try to strengthen for rio instead.

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    • I think if that was the case they’d bring Bailie, as I understand it they left direct from the ranch with her and Alyssa there until that point, so if there was anything going on with skinner they could easily have made the switch. Given the decision was made before training yesterday my choice would have been to get bailie to come and take skinner off the roster, unless I thought there was a moderate chance that one of the intended TF competitors on FX and maybe VT would go down. Either that or she’s not the alternate and there were other reasons for the training order, kinda like Gabby going last on beam in 2011 quals and it pretty much being the making of her.

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